Discover the Latest Innovations and Lessons Learned in Rule of Law and Legal Empowerment Projects
For the last couple of months I’ve been searching for initiatives by Diaspora’s who partake in rule of law reform in their country of origin. I wasn’t having much luck. So you really can’t imagine how excited I was to come across this event on “Morocco’s Rule of Law Reforms: Toward an Evolved Perspective on Diaspora Engagement” in Washington, DC.
Morocco and its Diaspora have been collaborating on a very fascinating initiative to allow members of the Diaspora to have more input on constitutional and legislative reform (something I’d mostly heard about in sub-Saharan Africa.) In addition to what the panelists said, it was interesting to hear the views from the Moroccan Diaspora, many of whom commented on the need for a think tank to disperse their views on policy issues and a platform in the media to learn about what’s happening in Morocco. After hearing all this, I couldn’t help but empathize and also appreciate the efforts by my own Tamil Diaspora to develop think tanks and media outlets to articulate the Diaspora’s policy stances. Read excerpts from the panelists below!
H.E. Abdellatif Mazouz, Minister Delegate to the Head of Government in Charge of Moroccans Living Abroad
Morocco has been a country, a state, and a kingdom for more than 12 centuries. The country is now on their 6th constitution but all of the past constitutions have brought something different and the last one especially has been viewed as a ‘public constitution’ for incorporating the demands of its population.
There is a Moroccan Diaspora of almost 5 million, with the biggest concentration in Europe (85%). The second biggest concentration is in North America and then Middle East and North Africa. The Diaspora represents 12% of the total population and this is taken into consideration in political, social, and economic initiatives. There are 320,000 Moroccans living in the US and more than 40% are highly skilled. This population is young and their economic situations are relatively good. A good chunk of the population also has expertise in scientific, political, and economic fields.
In the political, economic, and social arena, the Diaspora has an important role to play. The Constitution of 2011 was unique in that it provided 5 articles pertaining to the Diaspora. The articles can be summed up in 3 main pillars. The first is to make all necessary efforts so that a Moroccan person, wherever he lives, is integrated as much as possible politically, socially, and economically. For this reason, the Moroccan government should not only mobilize Moroccans living abroad but also develop relationships with host countries to prepare the legal framework to permit such integration and reinforce the rights of Moroccans in those countries. In meetings with other countries, including the US, this subject is discussed heavily.
The second pillar is to act in such a way that the Moroccans are able to preserve their identity, no matter where they are or what generation they belong to (particularly the 2nd and 3rd generation of immigrants.) It is important that they maintain links with Morocco that are not only legal, but also cultural, economic, and political. In this direction, the Constitution gives Moroccans abroad the right to vote in electoral consultations, whether they are local or national. The Constitution also allows Diasporas to be a part of all councils in the government, not simply the council of Moroccans residing abroad, but also the council on human rights, and others. This is to ensure that “we take into account all the competencies that are part of the Diaspora.”
The third pillar is to make the Diaspora a lever of development in bilateral relations between the country in which they live and Morocco. At this level, we are convinced that this role can only be played if they are co-citizens and are directly involved in the political parties, NGOs, unions, and the public life in their country.
Ms. Leila Hanafi (moderator), Moroccan-American Lawyer and Representative of the Moroccan Diaspora in the Moroccan Intergovernmental Commission on National Dialogue
One thing to be conscious of is how the Diaspora can be engaged in the development of organic laws. As the Constitution prescribes, the Diaspora has a key role to play. The second thing to be conscious of is that access to information or lack of it, is an issue that may hinder the Diaspora’s role in the consultative process.
The Moroccan Intergovernmental Commission on National Dialogue on Constitutional Reforms was created a couple months ago and is represented by all of the ministries, NGOs, Parliament, and others. It is a multi-disciplinary commission and one of its key roles is to promote civil society organizations in and outside Morocco to help implement the constitution. One of the things Ms. Hanafi pushed for was a sub-commission to lobby for the rights of the Diaspora. Dialogue through this commission will begin in the fall of 2013. [Ms. Hanafi also mentioned that they are looking for feedback from the Moroccan community about a proposal on the rights of the Diaspora for the revised constitution.]
Mr. Richard C. Rowson, President Emertius for the Council for a Community of Democracies (CCD)
Morocco has been a part of the CCD since 2000. The CCD provides a voice for democracy reform and helps countries transition to a democracy from other forms of governance.
CCD has recommended that there be a dialogue established between all constitutional monarchies, to make the transition successful from dictatorial or authoritarian rule to a constitutional democracy. This dialogue is being explored in European, Asian, Latin American, and African democracies and would engage the people in Morocco and also include representatives from the Diaspora.
A recent resolution was adopted unanimously by the United Nations to institute global participation in democracy education. CCD worked for 12 years to put together the concept of democracy education, which involves youth, elders, and everyone in between. Initiatives like these would help citizens learn how they can participate in democracies through lobbying, media, and other channels that are essential to democracy itself. This would also allow the large Moroccan Diaspora to participate in important transition processes that are taking place in the country.
Mr. Rowson also commented that the real power appears to be with the King rather than with the Council that was elected by the people. One example of this was the statement made by the royal cabinet about the referendum being the right thing to do. While this is important, the final decision should come from the people. [This claim was later disputed by a Moroccan participant in the audience who said the King did not play a large role in the constitutional process.]
Mr. Samir Bennis, Editor-in-Chief at Morocco World News
In the 2011 Constitution, Article 18 described the Diaspora’s role in consultative processes. Before May 2011, there was no news outlet that kept the Diaspora or foreigners up to date with what was going on in Morocco. In 2010, Mr. Bennis and a few others decided to launch a news outlet in English to promote Morocco’s position and educate people overseas about what was going on in Morocco politically, economically, and socially. Mr. Bennis realized that Morocco did not have a positive image abroad because there was a lack of effort to engage Moroccans living in different countries and there was no strategy to develop grassroots efforts to influence policy.
To read more on how the Moroccan government is engaging with its Diaspora, you can click here.